The man in the kitchen.

by mssinglemama on July 20, 2008

My ex-husband has a little problem. He won’t let his girlfriend’s 7-year-old son call him Dad. As a result, our son, who he has for just 36 hours a week is now calling him by his first name too. He’s mimicking his psuedo step-brother. So what’s a jerky ex-husband to do?

“Why don’t you just let him call you Daddy?” I press, “He’s just a kid and you’re living with him.”

“He can call me Daddy if I’ve been there for five years, but not yet. I am not his father. He knows that.”

He’s walking around my kitchen – making coffee, grabbing snacks – pretending like its all his. The rant continues. His indifference to the children’s feelings is disgusting me. I escape to head upstairs where his girlfriend and her son are playing with Benjamin. We’d just met for the first time a few minutes ago. 

She is standing over the boys who are completely immersed in the Thomas the Train set. She looks tired and run down, her wrinkles too deep for her age, her spirit vanquished and broken. After she became a single mom she started stripping and now, three years later she works at a Taco Bell. But despite our socioeconomic differences she and I are one in the same. We’ve both fallen in love with the man in the kitchen, a French-Canadian with a scarred past that’s left him unable to really love anyone, child or adult.

I can tell immediately that she doesn’t have my strength. He’s probably walking all over her – treating her like he wanted to treat me. But she has a son. I left our marriage just to avoid what she’s going through now.

“It’s so nice to finally meet you,” I say softly. I can tell she’s nervous. Who knows what he’s told her about me.  “So is he treating you well?” I ask. I don’t wait or beat around the bush. I know we don’t have much time and I’m concerned. 

“He’s an asshole sometimes but for the most part he’s okay…I guess.”

“Well, I really hope you two are a better match than we were. But if he ever treats you badly don’t let him get away with it, okay?” And then I add, “Us single moms have to stick together, that’s all.”

For the first time she looks me in the eye and then she smiles. “Yeah – we do, don’t we?” The single motherhood code, an unspoken bond. We start sharing single mom war stories and then my ex breaks it up. 

“We’ve got to go!” 

They climb into his beat up Chevy cavalier. She sinks into the front seat. Then he stops and jumps out. “Do you have any Tylenol?”

“Yeah sure,” I hand him the pills.

He’s shaking his head, “That’s the thing with her, she pops 10 of these a day.” 

What a jerk.

What if Benjamin turns out anything like his father? And why do I feel like I want to save her and her son? I know I can’t … can I? But moreover, after this experience and some other things too personal to write I’m wondering lately if Benjamin would be better off without his father in the picture at all. 

Related posts you might like:

Caught on Tape: My ex, his girlfriend and my son? Nope. He’s just crying in the background.

Should I Leave My Husband?

Was it Really My Choice?

O’ Daddy Where Art Thou?

{ 14 trackbacks }

Am I a Single Mother By Choice? | Ms. Single Mama
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{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

colbystream July 20, 2008 at 4:33 pm

Some deep thoughts here. Of course, I’ve never been in this spot to offer advice. But I wanted to let you know I read it. So…I read it.



Anna July 20, 2008 at 6:58 pm

I love your posts…you’re a strong lady to deal with all of that on top of working so hard to be a such a good single mama!


SingleWorkingMommy July 20, 2008 at 7:21 pm

Oh babe. How hard. Thinking of you. And I’d want to save the lady, too.

As for Benjamin and the Ex. Is your Ex a good dad to Benjamin? That’s the ultimate question, I would think (like I really have a clue). Even when I was at my worst with SD, and I wanted to run far away, I knew I couldn’t because SD is a great dad to Son and Son adores him–no matter how our relationship was going.


Katie July 20, 2008 at 7:41 pm

Oh sweetie, I feel for you. To this day I wonder what my ex’s girlfriend sees in him, she seems reasonably smart and very sweet, so I don’t get it at all. I also wonder if ds wouldn’t be better off without his dad around because he does the bare minimum as a parent/father and places his own needs/wants above all else and it is very hard to see, especially in comparison to my boyfriend who is a great father to his kids. I don’t know what to tell you. I do know that if my son didn’t seem to truly love and adore his father, I would try to keep him away from him more, but as it is he gets him close to half the time. I don’t do it because I like him and want to make him happy or because I think he is father of the year, Ido it because it make ds happy and that is the only reason to do it.


mssinglemama July 20, 2008 at 8:29 pm

SWM – That’s the stuff I can’t really get into on here. He’s as good of a father as he can be…wish I could say more. I have definitely asked myself that question though – a million times over.

This week he’s not coming – his car is broken down again.

Anna – thank you so much, so sweet.

Katie – it’s tough isn’t it? When they put the kids second. Well mine only has him 36 hours a week, often less than that – for ex: this weekend he’s not coming (car is broken down again). In his time away he never, ever calls to talk to Benjamin or see how he’s doing. I just worry about how Benjamin will handle this kind of stuff when he’s older. There’s more, but once again – can’t get into the details.


T July 20, 2008 at 8:53 pm

Aw. You’re so sweet for reaching out to her. That takes a special kind of strength too.

The good news is that eventually, Benjamin will see his father’s actions and be able to judge them himself. At least he spends most of his time with you. And with the right male role models in your life, he will be able to tell the difference.

Kudos to you for being such a wonderful mother and kind stranger to another woman in need.


spatulahandle July 20, 2008 at 9:03 pm

…I’ve been there. My ex-husband’s girlfriend, who has two kids by him and has another one on the way, contacted me last September and said that he had left her for a 23 year old(who was married) and was playing daddy to her kids instead of being a dad to the two he had with the girlfriend. He left her with nothing, moved everything out of their apartment including the babies crib, all of their clothes, and the kids toys. The electricity and gas were shut off and she was left with the two kids ages 9 months and 8 years old. Luckily, her mother and step-dad took her and the children in. When she contacted me, I agreed to meet with her, because our kids were all half brothers\sisters and we had not seen them in over 2 years. I told her that the kids deserved better and she should move on with her life, they were much better off without him, especially since he abandoned them. He treated them worse than he did my kids and I (my kids and I have nothing to do with him, no child support or even speaking to him….he even went as far as to change his name and social security number to avoid having to pay child support to us). He had been gone 4 months already when she contacted me and was working and going to school to support her kids and get on with her life. She got herself an apartment and all settled in, then he got dumped by the 23 year old and she let him back in…I had told her that I would only meet with her and talk to her if she weren’t involved with him, because he makes my blood boil (and that’s putting it nicely). When I found out she had let him back in I quit talking to her, I was mad. A few months ago I got a letter from her saying that she was due to have a baby with him in October. She told me that she was stupid, but she was stuck with him. I wrote her back and told her she wasn’t stuck and only she was the one that could make the decision to leave…I keep contact with her through the mail, but don’t give out too much info on my kids because she is still with him. We keep in touch for the kids.

My kids and I are better off without him. They have a new dad who loves them and would do anything for them….and me.


Dan July 20, 2008 at 9:24 pm

wow.. (I’m so shocked) unfreakinbelievable. If I act like that, please, somebody- kick my ass


mssinglemama July 20, 2008 at 9:43 pm

Spatula – you took my breath away. Thank you. The best part – you’re keeping in touch for the kids…not even for the father because he’s worthless and actually worse than worthless, he could hurt them emotionally or in his new girlfriend’s case, actually leave the children in harm. I hear you.

Yes, Dan…there are a lot of men out there who need their asses kicked.


J-Fo July 20, 2008 at 9:46 pm

Lots here. You did good. Very, very good. My thoughts on the relationship your son has with his father. You’ve limited the custody to a 36 hour window each week. Given my limited understanding of your ex, this was a very wise move.

My personal thought (as a woman who also has a dud-like, narcissistic ex with whom I share a child) on this…

If he’s physically safe and not being neglected by his father during those 36 hours each week, I think it’s a good thing that kids get to have both of their parents in their lives. You have him the vast majority of the time, so you are molding him according to the values you have, and loving him in the way that you know will sustain him.

As your son gets older, he will see his father’s “warts” and understand his limitations without you ever having to say one peep. And, God willing, understand that you are his rock, and his true role model.

I’m counting on it for my daughter, at least.


Brad July 21, 2008 at 2:40 am
Amy July 21, 2008 at 6:44 am

I can’t tell you how many times I have wanted to talk to my X’s fiance — but then I think, what if he’s fine with her – and just a jerk with me? If I say anything then I’m just opening up this whole other level….

But it’s so cool that you did. (Say something.)


Secola July 21, 2008 at 9:09 am

My ex has had too many other ex’s for me to keep up with. I never really formed any type of relationship with any of them.

I wouldn’t be surprised if you end up being bff’s with his gal pal.


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QTMama July 21, 2008 at 10:34 am

I feel the need to go give my ex-husband a hug. He is a good daddy, and reading this post about Ben’s dad … well, I’m sorry. I’m glad you said something to the new woman … perhaps she’ll be able to learn from you. *hugs*


Amy July 21, 2008 at 11:12 am

Same boat…sister. In my case, he dates VERY young girls (19 year olds…he’s 36…with children)…one’s that BELIEVE all the garbage that passes through his lips….he charms them and manipulates them, preying of their naïvety. They don’t even know they are being abused… After 15 years of knowing him, I am still in shock at his behavior, unbelieving that people really “work” this way….I just cannot relate at all. Our children are pawns in his game…tools to get what he wants. I believe he loves them in some warped way, but he just can’t help to put himself first no matter what the cost. They are more like trophies to him. I am in the process of getting distance between us….just a few hours…but enough to cut back on the time spent with him….it’s too damaging… ((hugs)) Come to FL! ;O)


The Last Spartan July 21, 2008 at 11:21 am

I would agree with everyone who’s congratulated you. I think that you did admirably.

The thing that strikes me about this story is that I may (and don’t hate me for this…) agree with your ex-husband on one thing. If he feels there is a need to reserve the label “Dad” for your son only at this time…couldn’t that be a good thing? Could he be struggling with trying to keep his relationship with his own son “special” or “sacred”? I know that implies a certain amount of insecurity on his part but it’s a thought. I feel as though calling a man “Dad” who isn’t needs to have some sort of special relationship go with it. It doesn’t seem like that exists here.

Now, I find his comment about the tylenol offensive but I think that in the balance, you may have gently supported this other woman who may be in for a difficult time with your ex.

Just some thoughts…I could be wrong.


osolomama July 21, 2008 at 11:48 am

I’m going to say something really difficult, and that is (based on the way you talk about/feel about Benjamin and raise him). . .yes, my gut sense tells me that you might be better off raising him alone. One of my best friends found that as time went on, her ex just dropped out of the picture from lethargy. But when they stay involved yet have no parenting skills and little chance of getting any, it seems almost unfair to the child who has to be on the receiving end of all the nonsense, even if you are trying to make the process as smooth as possible. The ex-stripper Taco Bell queen is an adult and responsible for her own bad judgment; Benjamin, on the other hand, is sort of stuck. I’m sure this situation must weigh on your mind. As you know, there is no father in my daughter’s life and never has been any, and I don’t subscribe to the view that kids need “a mother and a father” but I know it’s a tough call.


Dilly February 3, 2015 at 7:09 am

Your story was really intovmafire, thanks!


mssinglemama July 21, 2008 at 12:33 pm

Thanks everyone for sharing your stories. I guess I’m not alone in this at all. I thought there would be hell to pay for suggesting he may be better off without this man in his life.

But like you say – O Solo Mama – such a hard, hard decision and yes, it’s weighing on me. There’s nothing I can do legally but I can offer him “outs” – reasons to give him an excuse for not coming. Can’t get into the details but it’s worked this week already. I just have a feeling he’ll jump at the chance “not to come” if he doesn’t “have” to come.

But that’s not a permanent fix – just a temporary one until I figure out if I should push for supervised visitation. Either that or I can move across the country – he wouldn’t have the money to follow. Sigh. But my family is here, my job is here … HATE this. But I’ve bought time to think for a few weeks and will be thinking on this for quite some time.

Spartan – he’s living with the kid though and definitely acting like his father – disciplining him and everything. I can see your point, but I just feel that the poor boy wants a dad so badly and there’s my ex telling him not to call him one. If he doesn’t want to be his father he should not be living with him b/c that little boy will be hurt by this experience.


pisceshanna July 21, 2008 at 3:06 pm

I feel for you too. I hate my situation with the ex. I hate unreliability, waiting for him to call, doubting, making other plans, cancelling other plans, looking flaky to everyone else…not to mention PISSED OFF all the time. I hope it gets better for both of us.


SingleMomSeeking July 21, 2008 at 7:44 pm

Very bold, honest, painful writing. Thanks for this.

Good for you for befriending your ex’s girlfriend and being so mature about it.


Katie July 21, 2008 at 8:26 pm

Will you be able to get supervised visitation? Without getting into it on here, that is what I initially pushed for but my lawyer said it would be very hard to get (need to have evidence of him endangering the child), so I ended up with sole physical and dad just having visitation rights, well and we share joint legal (which is a joke because if I said that I wanted ds to go to a school run by wolves he would agree to it). Yeah, we don’t get any phone calls to see how ds is doing EVER. Not enough when he initially left, I will let our son call him if he wants to, but he never calls me to talk to him or see how he is, not even when he was in the ER on Mother’s Day. I think your ex and mine can share that Father of The Year award.


mssinglemama July 21, 2008 at 8:44 pm

Pisces – I know … you do have a similar situation don’t you?

SMS – thanks for the encouraging words.

Katie – that’s funny b/c Benjamin was in the ER – I called him and he said he had a run and didn’t call back. Thanks for the details on your situation – that’s very helpful.


Tiffany July 21, 2008 at 9:32 pm

I completely understand the feeling that Benjamin would be better off without his dad. I feel the same way about my daughter’s father. I am constantly torn between resentment that he is so unstable and relief that I am able to control how much of that instability she is exposed to.

I think that you are safe in regard to him growing up to be like his father because he is being raised by a great lady such as yourself.


David July 22, 2008 at 12:05 am

As much as I hate to say it, there probably is a danger of him growing up to be like his dad … and that danger will persist as long as he feels insecure and in need of his dad’s approval/support. I think that especially with boys, they tend to imitate in order to gain support and solidarity with a male role model.

One reason I think this is true is due to the astonished reactions I have had from every therapist I’ve seen (and believe, me, there have been plenty) that I didn’t turn out like my dad; I saw him clearly from a very early age, and hated him. But that is very rare.


mssinglemama July 25, 2008 at 9:00 pm


I really appreciate your honesty…and I hear you – I’m considering all of this.


I hope we’re safe … it’s the toughest moral dilemma I’ve ever faced.


Alexa September 13, 2008 at 8:59 am

MsSingleMama, et al:

Just googled “single mother” hoping to find others who share my experience so as not to feel so alone in what can I find can be a struggle emotionally and psychologically. Well – this was my first result, and I couldn’t feel more at home. (YOU ALL are “my people.” lol)

After reading the posts on this thread, I can’t help but feel fortunate that my ex has NO CONTACT with our child (and doesn’t seem ABLE to even truly want contact or a relationship). The brief time (1 – 1.5 years) that he did return to our lives (in mainly a platonic capacity with frequent but short 1 – 2hr visits in my home with my presence) our child said “Bob is weird. But I liked making airplanes and flying them with him.” THOSE were one of the few pleasant times.

She also saw him start in on me with one of his “crazy irrational rages” — but I nipped it right in the bud and managed to get him right out of our house within a few moments. I tell you all this because I feel so fortunate for the brief experience my/our child had with her father. It was enough time to know what he’s about: that he can be extremely pleasant and a treat to be around but that he’s unreliable, unpredictable, and something is just really OFF about him. If asked, she will tell you that she does NOT want to see him again.

I resent having the sole responsibility of OUR child on my shoulders. He doesn’t even pay a penny in child support. Never recognizes her birthday or X-mas or any of that. Never has called, etc. And HE was the one PLEADING with me for us to have a baby. BIZZARE – but I see that it could, in fact, be so much worse if he DID want to be involved.

Much love to all you ladies.

Your sister in single momhood,


Sol Danmeri January 5, 2009 at 12:22 am

What I liked about reading your article is that it high lighted an important point about the dynamics of relating between children that are related to you by birth and children that are related via a partner. If this guy was looking for a long term relationship and was going to setttle down with woman and her child than this whole thing would have been much simpler if all children could call him dad. I am a man and that is what I would do. But as it is a delicate issue, I do not have have a clear idea as what is the best plan of action.

Sol Danmeri. Oxford/United Kingdom


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